Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, easily won primary races in New Hampshire on Tuesday, reinforcing the state’s status as a battleground eight weeks ahead of the general election, when the top two down-ballot races will now feature popular incumbents, one from each party.
The Associated Press called the races at 8 p.m. Eastern, after polls closed an hour earlier.
President Trump visited New Hampshire the day after accepting his renomination last month, and his campaign has identified the state as a possible pickup opportunity after Mr. Trump lost it in 2016 by fewer than 3,000 votes, or less than one percentage point.
Mr. Sununu, whose favorability has been lifted all year by his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and Ms. Shaheen, a former governor and two-term senator, both faced nominal opponents in their own parties.
Most of the suspense centered on the contests to pick their November challengers: the Democratic primary for governor, featuring a candidate endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, and the Republican Senate primary, in which Mr. Trump weighed in with his endorsement.
In the end, it was Mr. Trump 1, Mr. Sanders, 0.
Corky Messner, the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate, held off a rival in the Republican primary, Don Bolduc, who had blasted Democrats as “a bunch of liberal, socialist pansies,” a remark criticized as being homophobic.
In the Democratic governor’s primary, Dan Feltes, the majority leader of the State Senate, defeated Andru Volinsky, his Sanders-backed opponent.
As in other states’ primaries since the coronavirus outbreak began, the election was marked by a huge spike in absentee ballots: More than 75,000 had been returned as of Monday, according to the New Hampshire secretary of state, an eightfold increase over the 2016 primary. In-person voters were asked to wear masks, and while almost everyone did, there were some who refused. Election officials at some polling places accommodated maskless voters in outdoor tents that were then disinfected.
Mr. Messner, a wealthy lawyer who built his law career in Denver and did not register to vote in New Hampshire until 2018, fended off charges of carpetbagging during the primary. He said he had bought a second home in the state a dozen years ago. He may face a similar attack in the general election. In Ms. Shaheen’s 2014 re-election campaign, she used a carpetbagging attack against former Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
Mr. Messner, for his part, accused Ms. Shaheen during a Republican forum last month of having grown wealthy and out of touch in Washington. “She comes back to New Hampshire and tries to pretend she’s a moderate; she’s not a moderate,” he said.
In July, The Washington Post reported that a foundation Mr. Messner started to provide scholarships to underprivileged high school students had awarded just one scholarship in 10 years.
In a Granite State Poll last week, Ms. Shaheen held nearly a 20-point lead over Mr. Messner.
In the Democratic primary for governor, the support of Mr. Sanders, who won New Hampshire’s presidential primary in February, helped rally progressive voters for Mr. Volinsky, a lawyer and education activist.
But Mr. Feltes had progressive credentials of his own. A former legal aid lawyer, he favors raising the minimum wage, paid family leave and getting the state to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
Mr. Volinsky broke with New Hampshire Democratic tradition and refused to take “the pledge,” a promise not to introduce sales or state income taxes. Mr. Feltes said he would veto a sales or income tax if it passed the Legislature.
Now Mr. Feltes, 41, the youngest Senate majority leader in state history, will face a popular incumbent, Mr. Sununu, who has the approval of seven in 10 New Hampshire voters.
In another closely watched race, Matt Mowers, who worked in the Trump administration and also received the president’s endorsement, won the Republican primary for the First Congressional District. He will take on Representative Chris Pappas, a Democrat, who is favored to hold the seat by several nonpartisan ratings analysts.
In Rhode Island, which also held primaries on Tuesday, only one of its two congressional districts featured competitive races: Representative Jim Langevin, a 10-term Democrat, defeated a challenger, while Robert Lancia won the Republican primary for the right to challenge Mr. Langevin in the Second Congressional District two months from now.
Last week, the president’s campaign pulled back television ads it had booked for New Hampshire this week (as did the Biden campaign). It suggests the race there may be less competitive than Mr. Trump had hoped for.